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SIMMONS: ‘Back-alley’ abortions an issue of responsibility

- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 12, 2013

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

All right, ladies. Do not get your thongs, boxers or briefs all twisted.

Don't think "back-alley" abortions are no more because of Roe v. Wade.

This is a discussion that should have occurred decades before FBI agents discovered in February 2010 that a clinic in Philadelphia run by Dr. Kermit Gosnell was performing "high-volume, high-profit" illegal late-term abortions that "almost guarantee a live birth."

In other words, "back-alley"-like abortions that endangered the lives of mother and child.

Turns out the Gosnell clinic was a "house of horrors" largely because neither the Pennsylvania Department of State, which is charged with regulating doctors and the medical field, nor the Pennsylvania Department of Health, charged with regulating healthcare facilities, had visited the clinic in 15 years.

Now is the time to flip the script, acknowledge the fact that "back-alley" abortions are performed in clinics and doctors' offices and tighten the screws on them and the local and state governments that sanction them.

Abortion isn't a women's issue. It's a public health and government-accountability issue.

We don't look at justice, education, freedom and liberty, military and defense, welfare, employment, agriculture, commerce, economics or diplomacy as a "black thing."

And let's hope it's not turned into a partisan thing, either, because a pro-choice former Republican governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Ridge, is as responsible for that Philadelphia "house of horrors" as is a Democratic one, Ed Rendell.

The Ridge administration stopped routine annual inspections of abortion clinics, according to the Gosnell grand jury, which reported that the health department's "policy during Governor Ridge's administration was motivated by a desire not to be 'putting a barrier up to women' seeking abortions."

For its part, the Rendell administration buttressed the firewall.

In fact, federal authorities began probing Dr. Gosnell's clinic during Mr. Rendell's tenure amid allegations of drug crimes. By the time Mr. Rendell left office, the horrifying details were indefensible.

Of course, Mr. Rendell has tried on more than one occasion to explain his administration's inaction. Suffice it to say, however, that as a district attorney of Philadelphia for eight years and two-time mayor of Philadelphia before becoming a two-term governor, if Mr. Rendell wasn't aware of the gruesome goings-on at the clinic, it's because he made it clear that abortion clinics were untouchable.

The issue now isn't black abortions or how many "inner-city" clinics and doctors are performing abortions. The issue is how many doctors and so-called clinics are performing "back-alley" abortions.

If abortion is a public health service, the providers of that service must be regulated and routinely inspected.

If President Obama wants his Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — the nation's new health care law — to be all it can be, then he, his administration and Congress must focus more attention on two simple words — "Patient Protection."

After all, a fetus or baby deserves protection just as the mother does.

How's that for public health care reform?

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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